EBMUD is using a helicopter to carry 40-foot-long-pipe lengths up to Panoramic Hill. Photo: EBMUD
EBMUD is using a helicopter to carry 40-foot-long-pipe lengths up to Panoramic Hill. Photo: EBMUD

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has hired a helicopter to lift about 2,500 feet of pipe into the Panoramic Way neighborhood.

The red helicopter started lifting the pipe around 10 a.m. and will complete its task around 2 p.m., according to EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook.

The roads leading up Panoramic Hill are so windy that trucks could not carry the 40-foot-long lengths of pipe, she said. EBMUD has cut some of pipe in half, but even getting that length up the roads is a challenge, she said.

An EBMUD worker had the idea of using a helicopter, said Pook. EBMUD officials said the helicopter will save the agency about $200,000 in labor costs.

The helicopter lifting pipe up to Panoramic Hill. Photo: EBMUD

The pipes on Panoramic Hill are iron, old, and very leaky, she said. Some of the piping dates back to 1911, although most is from the 1940s and 1950s. EBMUD is replacing the iron pipes with HDPE pipes, which are flexible and can better withstand ground movement in an earthquake, she said.

The helicopter will make about 15 trips today, five minutes up and five minutes back. It is flying from Fernwald Road near Dwight Way to Panoramic Way near Dwight Way, according to an EBMUD press release. The helicopter is not flying over any homes for safety reasons.

The pipe replacement is part of EBMUD’s Panoramic Hills Improvement Project , which will replace 7,000 feet of pipe in the Berkeley Hills. The project also includes replacing the University Reservoir and the University Pumping Plant. That project will commence in late 2017.

EBMUD plans another helicopter delivery day later in the year, said Pook.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...